Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Helpless by Barbara Gowdy

Books Completed: 54
Completion Date: April 4, 2007
Publication Year: 2007
Pages: 320
Receieved from Harper Collins in 2007
Counts as both Spring Reading Thing and O'Canada Challenge Read
Helpless is Barbara Gowdy's brilliant new novel, a provocative, gripping story of an unthinkable act and a mother's heroic love for her child.

Rachel is an uncommonly beautiful young girl. With her tawny skin, pale blue eyes and chromium-blond hair, she is a cherished gift to her mother, Celia. Celia is a single parent holding down two jobs. All too aware of her own precarious equilibrium, she worries about Rachel's innocent longing for her unknown father.

When a blackout plunges the city into darkness and confusion, Rachel is snatched away. Celia, numb with terror and guilt about the choices she has made, confronts the reality of every mother's worst nightmare. The media coverage is tremendous. Closely monitoring it is Ron, a small-appliance repairman with a rare collection of vintage vacuums in his basement. Though Rachel is a stranger to him, he feels oddly connected to her, as though she is his responsibility. His feelings for her are, at once, tender, misguided and chillingly possessive.

Tapping into the fear and tension just below the surface of contemporary city life, Gowdy's clear-eyed prose artfully urges us to consider what we dare not look at too closely. With her uncanny ability to lay bare our common soul and to fearlessly explore the intricate complexities of love, Gowdy has created a masterful novel.
This is one of my favourite Canadian authors, so I always try and get her new books when they come out. The first time I read her was a couple years ago when I saw The White Bone in a second hand bookstore. I thought it was interesting that it was about an elephant, with her thoughts and impressions. Not the sort of novel that I usually see, so I thought I would read it for something different. My favourite book by her, though, is The Romantic. I really must reread it one of these days.

Anyways, this book was typical Gowdy writing, but it still did not beat The Romantic for me. It is about a very serious topic, child molestors and pedophiles. This is a topic that is seen in the news again and again, so it was a very real subject matter. Gowdy often writes very realistic child characters in her books, so this was not an exception. It was interesting to see things from the pedophiles point of view, from the childs point of view, and from the mother's point of view. It was very plausible that how the man talked himself into things is how it is done in real society. He made excuses for what he was doing the whole time that he was doing it.

It was nice to see a new novel by Gowdy, and while it was a very quick read, it was very interesting. Ron is creepy, but at the same time I feel a little bad for him. You can feel both disgust and sympathy at the same time. Rachel is a cute kid, and it was interesting to see how she justified everything that was happening to her. Overall, a good new novel from Barbara Gowdy. I look forward to a new one, but I am sure that will be a while yet.


My thanks to Harper Collins for this wonderful new book.


  1. Soooo tempting.

    I love your book reviews.

  2. I've only read one of her books, The Romantic, which I loved too. This sounds really good. I'll have to add it to my list.


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